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Owning Mistakes and Learning From Them

Owning Mistakes and Learning From Them

We can blame many things for failed photographs, but the problem usually isn’t outside circumstances. Read more of my thoughts on this here.

For any creative—and really, this is probably something that applies in many areas of life, too—the hardest thing to do is to own up to our mistakes and failures. It comes to mind with creativity and photography in particular because when you embark on a creative path, those failures will be many. I daresay that if any of us look through our archives, the sheer volume of images that never got used tell that tale quite well. Most are failures, and only a few shining images end up making the cut and going on to become something that we process and display.

It’s important to examine these failures and take them into account. In fact, I’d say it’s our duty to face our mistakes and analyze them. That’s the only way we can recognize them, then recognize what went wrong, and fix these problems in future endeavors. It’s all part of the learning process, same as when we’d take tests in school. When we didn’t get perfect grades, we knew what we needed to work on in order to improve.

Another thing that I think is important to recognize is this: When a photograph fails, it’s probably the result of the photographer. There are always, of course, exceptions like sudden and entirely random equipment failures. If your camera refuses to turn on, but you’ve taken care of it well, the battery is charged and everything is as it should be, then this is of course not your fault. Or perhaps you accidentally drop a lens while out in the field—and that’s really no one’s fault because accidents do happen.

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But conversely, it’s all too easy to blame circumstances for failed photographs or failed photography trips. You might say that the weather was bad that day, not what you’d anticipated. And that may be true—but there is still always an opportunity to create something. Beautiful photographs are takin in the rain as well as on sunny days. The challenge here is not to let these kinds of things stop us, but instead to overcome these obstacles rather than using them as an excuse.

Photographers might also escape blame by saying the lighting was too low, as another example. But, are there ways to work around low light? A longer shutter speed paired with a tripod, for example—provided you have the tripod on hand or another way to keep the camera perfectly still, like bracing it on a table or a solid surface. Or, if this is something that happens commonly—you find yourself often missing photographs because the lighting is too low and you can’t stabilize the camera—then perhaps it’s time to invest in that tripod. That’s the main thing to keep in mind. One way or another, barring completely random accidents, there is usually something that the photographer can do to make photography work no matter the situation. When it doesn’t work, then I think that rather than blaming the weather, the lighting, or any number of other factors, it’s wise to instead analyze what happened, and then think critically about what we could have done differently to salvage the situation. Creativity finds a way, and when it doesn’t, it’s likely because we just weren’t thinking quite creatively enough.

Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.

About the author

Will Moneymaker

Will has been creating photographs and exploring his surroundings through his lens since 2000. He is a husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild. Follow along as he shares his thoughts and adventures in photography.